Saturday, July 21, 2012

Spidey's 50th anniversary and the Comic Con Spider Panel!

Okay, I'm going to try to remember what was said, because life took off like a SHOT and every since my brain tired happened while writing the first column, I never wrote the rest. I thought the pictures were fine, till someone whose opinion really mattered criticized me for not doing better---I guess in life, overall, but am I about to reveal some surprises on THAT front, LOL---so I took it down. Still, two months later, I'm kind of busy! Let's see...they were asked who would they like to see in the Spider-man movies, who was their favorite character in the Spider-verse, WHY would people hound Dan Slott to the ends of the Earth after the Alpha storyline (whuh? I'm not a comics blogger, I hadn't read Spidey in a year!) and his surprise in the anniversary issues (can't wait to bicycle out to Ocean Beach and pick up the ones on my new pull list!). Uh, favortite non-comics version of the wall-crawler? I may be making things up. If I remember ANY of the answers to these things, I will share, but the point really is: wasn't it so cool to sit in a room filled with hundreds of Spider-fans, listening to the current creative teams talk about Spider-Man? The answer's definitely yes.

Alpha, by the by, is an adolescent super-hero with groovy flight and strength powers, who becomes Spider-Man's SIDE KICK! He has no secret identity, though, so he has all the fun of hitting on girls and cashing in on his fame, without the misunderstandings engendered by Spider-Man's mystery and, frankly, spookier powers.

I know, Spider-Man archetypally is the teenager, how dare they? But it's a commercial enterprise, with an eye towards selling more Spider-Man tm stuff, and these teams just have to do the best they can to come up with something that hasn't quite been done before, on a character who's been Marvel's most published in fifty years of existence. To be honest, from what I read in the reprints of the classic Stan Lee/ Steve Ditko issues? Sometimes even last month or six month ago, the reader thought the comics were better and the creators (the ORIGINAL guys so praised now) were blowing it in a big way! Every since people cared, no one's had the exact same idea of what would be the cool way to decide a character's history and future, much less much consensus on what's cool now, which is the big target. Somebody ALWAYS doesn't like what you're doing if you've made it! I guess, if you don't expect anything constructive from my terse critic, he's a little sign of status to remind me I'm making it out past my friends to make fans!

Friday, July 20, 2012

In a world where people want to be the Joker and Batman's a fantasy?

Here's some advice given freely today:

It's all good.

Is this your situation: It seems the person you wish to persuade towards copacetic behavior is dwelling only on the negatives in so many things, it seems to be the person's basic state of mind.

So, maybe:

They see the positive in something, but they instinctively give you resistance for energy to control the situation?

If that's anything close to the truth, maybe in a kinder way you can let them know you could care less about their derogatory opinions, as they seem to feel about, perhaps, your own. Nothing perturbs you, nothing feeds it. You take your energy from a limitless source, act within its allowances to your actions, and suddenly it is you who are the irresistible force. Our empathy and our need to control or change the situation work in a balance that determines our personal dramas, but remember this: it means a lot to the world that you care about someone.

If you are writing erotic vampire fiction, remember the world needs, if not deserves, great trash, as the man formerly known as President Taft says.

Do whatever you're concentrating on like you're about to get caught with it.

In a world where people want to be the Joker and Batman's a fantasy, it's best we look out for one another.

I want to come back to this with thoughts on the movie itself: I went twice in the next week and had an amazing time. It had been a long time since I saw the second of the trilogy, so while I recognized the call-backs, I didn't compare them too closely---which is for the best by most accounts.

Catwoman is my favorite of the DARK KNIGHT RISES characters, and the influences of the comics recall my high school days with the Batman. I'll try to write about the fun we had afterwords parsing its political and sociological and ethical dimensions, and have to say, The Bat vehicle is just beautifully awesome!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The new Captain Marvel's coming July 18th! This Captain is truly MARVELous!!

The Marc Kane (Angela) really

likes the edgy haircut!

Okay, this is my equivalent of taking you in my pocket to San Diego Comic Con International 2012! (Mind the half dollar there next to you)!

So, as I was saying in the Spider Panel post (which I pick up here and in the next):

Cullen Bunn had just filled us in on Flash Thompson’s adventure in the Microverse (along with Scarlet Spider) in “Minimum Carnage” and we got to see the preview covers. The room’s buzzing over Dan Slott’s phone-conference discussion of Amazing Spider-Man as it builds up to #700, with the wall-crawler’s 50th anniversary and birthday (complete with more Lizardmania.

Now, we sing “Happy Birthday” to Kelly Sue De Connick, as she tells us about CAPTAIN MARVEL, announced at this year’s Wonder Con. Air Force pilot Carol Danvers is a classic Type-A personality; this high-achievement-oriented approach was inherent in her pro-feminist conception back in 1977’s MS. MARVEL: a career woman who excelled while pulling off a secret life of using her Kree-given powers to safeguard the world. Since she first appeared as an officer during the original Captain Marvel’s run, Kelly Sue’s tying together a take based on long-standing elements. “Carol’s a pilot,” she explains, “and a pilot’s brain is geared towards keeping up with one’s surroundings at all times. She likes to be in control, and when she can’t be, she gets frustrated…and because of the chaos around her, she’s going to be frustrated a lot!” She chimed in with praise for Greg Rucka's "fearlessness as a writer---his courage in his ability to hurt his characters"---so expect a tough time! (There was a literal discussion about his detailed script descriptions of inflicting pain ;-D

CAPTAIN MARVEL’s been getting great covers, like issue one’s variant by Adi Granov, or for the premiere and issue two from Ed (World's Finest, Super Man) McGuiness with Dexter Vines. The series artist is "Dynamic" Dexter Soy. The newly christened Captain---and unlike many super heroes, her character WAS an Air Force Captain---appeared last year in AVENGING SPIDER-MAN #9. Her writer's first work for Marvel included a BLACK WIDOW limited series last year, for you fans of the femme Avenger out there!

When graciously asked, Kelly Sue also told about an upcoming non-Marvel project with Emma Rios. “I enjoyed our work last year on OSBORN, and asked if there was anything new she’d like to try with me,” she says. When Rios told her she’d like to work on a Western, DeConnick’s heart leapt! Her enthusiasm shines in the telling.
After the panel, I told her how my wife and I had a weekly ritual in college where we’d drive down to Chuck’s in McFarlane Mall, pick up the latest Spider-Man offering and other comics, then grab a French fry or Frosty and read together. “She kind of fell out of touch after they first lost the Parker baby and then got rid of Mary Jane,” I told her, “but I like to think, with writing like yours, maybe we can enjoy a brand new super hero comic book together again!” This made Kelly Sue very happy: her husband and she likes to read together, as well as with their kids. “What that does in my heart to hear that---you just can’t know!” she beams.

The Premiere issue, complete with a Spider-Man 50th anniversary variant as well, comes out TOMORROW, July 18th!!!!

After that, CAPTAIN MARVEL’s out every month---maybe YOU know someone who’d enjoy reading one with you!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Comic Con's Spider-Panel spins the tales

So why is Dan Slott preparing to go into hiding---his words---when AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #700 hits the shops? I have my theory---I’ll hang on to that---but first, a little about the rest of the post-Spider Island world, as it flourished for the eyes at Sunday’s San Diego Comic Con International panel for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN!!!

I thought, by the time I arrived at 6E, I was too late for the Amazing Spider-Man panel, and took a seat to listen to Tara Strong and other OLD REPUBLIC voice actors for a while next door. I’m glad my spider-sense tingled! I made it back over to the line and went in very quickly as a “one” with two others. The kindly usher said, “I have a much better ‘one’ for you!” and sat me on the SECOND ROW!
Whatever I may have missed, flagship title writer Dan Slott participated by phone, and while we outside the panel may’ve sounded “like the adults on the PEANUTS cartoons, to me,” his answers were clear to the ears..and as cryptic to the mind as they had to be!

Writer Cullen Bunn teased the storyline for the espionage thriller of the Wall-Crawler’s world, starring Flash Thompson as “the kind of super-hero I would be---screwing everything up!” There’s a small problem ahead in his future adventures bonded with the symbiote (after Eddie Brock---a recurrent menace as Anti-Venom---and Peter Parker). First of all, if you’re following the line right now---and I just came into possession of a mountain bike that JUST may take me to the comic book shops I rarely see from downtown San Diego---then you know Kaine is the Scarlet Spider. Cullen promises the motivations for Scarlet’s battles with Flash will be reasonable, and then they will team-up for the return of the psychotic Cletus Cassidy and his spawned symbiote in a return to the Microverse in “Minimum Carnage”! Kaine will face the worst in what a killer can be…and Flash, the worst in what a symbiote can be…”and all that’s necessary for Carnage’s plan to succeed is to kill an entire tiny universe,” says Bunn, with a tongue-in-cheek. Lots more is coming with the Savage Six super-villain team, too!!!

Way more to come when I re-post: birthday girl Kelly Sue De Connick’s CAPTAIN MARVEL, Frank Tieri’s SPACE PUNISHER, answers from C.B. Cebulski and Humberto Ramos, more teasers for Spider-Man’s 50th birthday, questions from the fans and fun all around---including a visit from the creator of YouTube film sensation “Who is Miles Morales?”---a tribute from a fan/ director named Wes Armstrong who got a bit of a break before the cheering crowd!

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Black Widow and the Fever (Amazing Spider-Man #86 & 87 by Stan Lee and John Romita)

This is from my occasional hobby blog, Amazing Bronze Age of

Amazing Spider-Man #86, 87 1970

The Black Widow sounded really exciting---let’s face it, my impression was built entirely on the cover!

I saw it for the very first time one April afternoon, home from my trip to Kessler's with Mom for Easter clothes (it fell April 22nd that year). I managed to get us a block down Broad Street with some very polite suggestions that it would be a lot of fun to visit the comic book shop, Amazing World of Fantasy. (It was NOT, as Gordon told people on the phone weekly, an adult sex items shop.) Sure enough, amidst the posters and figurines and very stimulating visual environment could be found more comic books than ever I had seen in my life!!!

I could get just one, basically, for what I had. Maybe two regular ones, but what...? So why not something extra special? That's when my eyes settled on a comic with the exciting title:

The Official Marvel Index to Amazing Spider-Man #4

Here was Spider-Man, crouched, and from behind him, we see he carries George Stacy's fallen body in the face of the Hulk, the Kingpin, and SO many B and C list villains! I had a fascination for comics made before I was (made), imagining them to be of surely exciting quality, and now I had a store within pleading distance (not to be abused, but floated often) stocked full of them. Rather than picking a single back issue from the boxes of plastic-bagged yesterday---and looking was and always will be a delight, but especially then, when it was like sneaking a peak at Heaven---I chose this brand new comic, with 28 covers and publishing details, credits, chronology for all characters as they appeared in each story, 32 pages of faithful prose re-tellings of each and every page of the comics magazine, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, from #85 in 1970 to #114 in 1972. The very first one was reprinted in Marvel Tales #66, in 1976---a salvage store comic I'd bought for a quarter with my good grades money, courtesy of Mama and Daddy. I recently realized that was one of the first dozen comics I owned. I must have read it a hundred times, even all the ads a few times. I knew the Kingpin was in for a shock at the end, over a secret his wife Vanessa had figured out. Cool, but their soap opera apparently required Spider-Man in a net for the entire climatic scene, which was very soap opera-style, but suggested rubber masks work better than they generally really do (though Face Off shows how truly a skilled artist can change an appearance). New content was always the mission: bang for buck. I would come back and buy Alpha Flight #12 at Gordon's suggestion, his first ever I took, and bang indeed that buck did.

So, the Index:
We get some 'cue from this new place on North Broad, Ole Timer Barbecue. Amazing smoked goodness, that sandwich was. And finally, chores done and Saturday, it almost had to be, maybe even April 20th, I open the door to enjoy the air outside and crumple comfortably into Dad's recliner.

I skipped the Kingpin finale on page one, oohed over John Romita's cover for #86 with its mysterious silhouette on Spidey's surprised wall-crawling frame. I read the

synopsis on page two of my brand new comic book. I was just innocent enough to be spooked and amazed and totally engrossed, reading each page, describing an issue of Amazing Spider-Man. Remember, in those days,

there was no readily more affordable way for me or any young fan to read a couple years’ worth of Spider-Man plots from fifteen or so years before. This comic book I describe featured each cover and a list of characters and other comments tying the individual stories to the larger storylines of the Spider-Man title. So the first page had my first true favorite comic book’s plot and cover, as they originally appeared. On the next: Spider-Man’s adventure with the Black Widow, one where the build-up of the suspense of her hunting down Spidey didn’t seem to match with that mysterious cover! By their second encounter, she realizes he doesn’t use gadgetry so much as raw, strange powers---no wonder he’s so difficult to subdue! Spider-Man’s on his way to bigger trouble, as we’ll see.

#87 has that very dramatic cover, and then the unthinkable occurs on the first few pages: a feverish Spider-Man, still desperate to produce a nice birthday present for Gwen Stacy (as seen in our subplot now for a few issues), uses his strength and climbing abilities to steal a nice necklace! He can’t just use being Spider-Man to get whatever Peter wants!

He puts it back, very worried about his fitness to function as a superhero anymore. He tries to take a look at his blood under a microscope, and can't focus.

Hoo, boy! Peter walks into Gwen’s party late, feverish, takes out the Spider-Man mask and tells them WHO HE IS!!! Talk about how does a hero get out of a jam?

Peter's problem, it turns out, is the FLU. And now he's walked into his girlfriend's party and announced "Spider-Man is finished! I know...because I'M Spider-Man!!!"

The solution revolves around the second of three pretty neat appearances of his friend Hobie Brown, who became Spidey’s friend after a misunderstanding in his first shot, ASM #78. (He was suggested by John Romita, Jr. I remember estimating, with a careful look at his age listed in a Bullpen Bulletin, JR Jr must have been about eight or nine when his father drew in his character! Nice, one-time deal for a father and son. And John Romita Jr.’s gone on to draw many more Spider-Man stories to continue the tradition with Marvel!

You can send $30 and get any three t-shirts and the comic, too---or $25 for the two styles of shirts and a comic.

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Season of the Scarlet Witch

From one of's most popular posts, in the middle of a series examining the Avengers work of Steve Englehart in 2011:

Drawn by Neal Adams

Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the very first issue of the X-Men in 1963, the Scarlet Witch and her protective older brother Quicksilver found themselves dealing with the margins of society. Perhaps they owe their lives and direction to the older, persuasive Magneto, but upon recurring encounters we find actual malicious harm is not to their tastes, and after a few stories they recant their orthodoxy as his minions.

Surprisingly, they reappear shortly afterwards---now, along with reformed adventurer Hawkeye the Marksman, these three, all of whom were introduced as pawns in battle with heroes, join the legendary Captain America to become the core of Marvel's answer to the Justice League. Where Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Giant Man and the Wasp had gathered, stars from early Marvel's other strips, now the Avengers was the story of revived Captain America forging these other misfits into team. They learn so much about each other and overcome distinct prejudices that all proceed from their characters, as they grow and develop. By the time Stan Lee hands over the Avengers to Roy Thomas for the next six years, many major foes of future stories were introduced and the rocky dynamics of the individuals thrown together became the template for their compelling Silver Age exploits.

Scarlet Witch, a.k.a. Wanda (later Maximoff), begins her reluctant career dallying with a forbidden relationship of sorts, participating in criminal acts as part of the mutant activism underscored by Magneto---like the front line of Greenpeace for Mutants, which I guess, to avoid confusion with the Hulk's never ending quest to be left alone, we'll call "Genepeace." That would've been much more clever public relations for Magneto; as the X-Men are misunderstood as outlaws, I believe their stories get much better, if not darker.

But that's later, and this is about Wanda, who continues a life sheltered from all but the absolute chaos of Avengers' battles against time tyrants and manipulative space aliens. Her brother wants to mean well, but the speedster stunts his and her growth by harping on the mutants' outcast place in humanity and overall pessimism one might not expect from superheroes of earlier times---more the attitude of the anti-heroes to come. They are an inseparable pair, and she occupies herself for some time with a crush on Captain America, while fourth member Hawkeye arrogantly wants it all for himself, learning the hard way why he is on this team.

From Integr8d Fictions, by Cecil Disharoon (available 2012)

Wanda's life doesn't change much for a very long time, from my sampling of the stories afterwards. Her commentaries on prejudice don't actually involve very much getting out in the streets and learning to empathize with regular people, who need her heart and humanity, for all their misunderstanding and fear. Still, for this to give her a bit of a chip on her shoulder to deal with is very realistic; more than one public servant has found themselves wrestling with judging those they protect as too corrupt and incompetent to manage society properly. It's a rather counter-cultural point of view, nurtured by Roy Thomas, if perhaps undermined somewhat by the need for her to become a hostage every so often---which happened to male superheroes, also, but was almost formula for the females!

Then, she realizes, after working with the Vision sometime, she relates to his lonely, one-of-a-kind existence in the world. Like a beautiful nerd love story, he begins to take her peril personally, thus developing the somewhat endearing flaw of losing his temper when anything threatens Wanda. Aw!

Their dance comes gradually, surviving the initial silent jealousy and disappointment of Hawkeye and Quicksilver as they begin to blossom as individuals. Though three decades or so ahead of its time, I'm sure creators were tempted to create a more low-key vehicle for telling the conversation attempted by these unique lovers to challenge notions of tolerance and self-concepts of humanity, though, without the need for constant fantasy violence, could've been an eloquent trip through the Marvel Universe, indeed. With such a clinical personality, however, the Vision, since he is being published as a super-hero, does well to have a compliment of differing personalities around him.

Fortunately female roles are expanding in superhero comics, because the Scarlet Witch changes more in these two years of stories than in her previous decade of life. Lord knows, first time she goes out in something really cute, she gets kidnapped by the returned robot mutant hunters, the Sentinels.

A great help in this expansion comes from bringing in other females such as the Black Widow on occasion, but we learn much more about her, I think, when her unaccented primacy as the chief female mainstay of this super-boy's club is challenged by a far less staid character, one more worldly in her ways and physical in her demeanor: Mantis. She and her shadowed companion set out to join the Avengers between the scenes even as human paranoia over the new romance sparks an insane, deadly response. This leads to Wanda's feeling that her love is besieged by one kind of attack after the other, as we'll see.

All covers copyright Marvel Entertainment.

Statue of Liberty gets repairs courtesy of the Avengers. (It’s been damaged from a rampage in a Marvel monster book, Astonishing Tales #18 or some such, on sale that month. Wasn’t continuity keen?) The Vision and Scarlet Witch take such joy in one another's company. I feel good just looking at those first pages. I love the way these writers/ artists would include the media, as when these people in the street segments are depicted as news footage. It's a glamorous romance between two New Yorkers who have really contributed in a major way to their city, say a young man, then a young woman, both of whom seem themselves to have something for which to live. The gripe that they are neither of them human is scrawled across the inscrutable, angry face of a man marching towards old age (no, I didn't say he was white, but yes he is). “Edit this guy out, Bob” comes the off-camera word balloon. This man’s negative opinion doesn’t fit the acceptable fairy tale being sold by the media; they want to build, not tear down, the popularity of this couple. Maybe there’s a bit of human heart at work in editing out the curmudgeon. Perhaps there’s some liberal media bias at work? As we see, editing out the angry does not mean their voice will never be heard, however unpleasant.

The awful decision of some outraged humans to sacrifice themselves as living bombs is jarringly prescient of the suicide bombings to come in real life. The sickening loss of life as they attempt to take the Avengers with them is grim, and this is exactly the opposite of what the Vision and Scarlet Witch mean to each other.

It's strange in that the super-people, the beings beyond normal, are the ones being oppressed by the ordinary, as was observed in the letters page. I am not entirely sure Steve Englehart knew what he would get out of going to this place but I am reasonably it felt wrong and twisted in a way the various schemes of the Grim Reaper and company are not. It's stuff that could really happen, an uncomfortable reminder of a lack of superheroes on hand to stop these things from happening...but that's never meant to be, and even if it were, it would be of no use until those who deem life worthy of such a conclusion of violence are disabused, not in an open confrontation, but in the fabric of their lives. We all have our rebellious needs, and only some sanctity for life gives them voices of creation, rather than destruction. At any rate, these characters are regular people who decide to die in non-strategic deployment as suicide bombers, sufficiently armed to kill an Avenger.

That anyone would want their life to end as a statement of hatred and nihilism is an abuse of freedom and civilization, a crime against the self, and baffling. Fanaticism is never uglier than in this never-repeated choice of antagonists.

When one considers the degree of nihilism present in the results of much of the world economy today, one cannot help but feel like Scarlet Witch: the thing that makes her and her lover most different, it seems to her, is that they love, they forgive, they protect. The psychic poison, as much as the Vision's severe wounds, are of such venomous hatred of a love, born between two noble people trying only to be themselves and harm none, hardens Wanda, in a way she did not anticipate. The point that they do not understand Vision well enough to kill him does not erase from her mind the fact that someone tried.

See, previously Wanda's always played the apologist in comparison to her brother Pietro's impatience and elitism regarding humanity, and now that she has everything to lose, now that her life's been rocked by such hatred, it will be her struggle to recover. I would gladly trade the space to depict more of that recovery, but we see so little of these people, month by month, and there's just time to expose this poisoned flower in the bosom of Scarlet Witch. The pain of a mixed race couple, a gay couple, anyone whose simple aims drew unthinking hatred, is not so different, as they, too, represent a change from the patterns taken so for granted.

One thing about California in 2011: I never lived anywhere with more freedom for people to love who they want, and whatever you may think of that, I am glad all of these people are free to explore the friendships and romances of their choice, and if you are a lover of freedom, how could that not be, to you, a sign of progress? It is, after all, no new thing. A story about intolerance could arise anywhere, but to be drawn and written in America's largest city is a tribute to live and let live---a principle next to "love your neighbor, as you should yourself."

Walking in after this episode blithely unaware of this terrible tragedy are the Swordsman, rescued addict, adventurer, and reality tv show candidate. He's here to rejoin the Avengers after a most checkered history, and neither he nor his girlfriend are particularly committed to bourgeosie values, such Vision and Witch have embodied.

This means, living in the moment, Mantis thinks about what feels right without regard for the past. She doesn't consider Wanda part of the deal she would have to understand, nor does she approach her in an inclusive manner. Her Oriental mystique and very then-trendy kung fu skills and ...flexibility...were perfect for getting up the Eastern European maid's somewhat demurely Silver Age gypsy nose.

But this all follows on a misunderstanding that plays on the worst in the superheroes, who are not perfect, but seem especially unreasonable in this instance, which to readers is the Avengers/ Defenders War. The two comics came out, one a piece each month like usual, only the story threaded them together by way of the time-lost Black Knight and a device of great power broken into six pieces, the Evil Eye. This mysterious totem first appeared during one of Johnny Storm's side journeys with Wyatt Wingfoot, to find Crystal and her fellow Inhumans' stronghold, and was guarded by a mystical champion called Prester John. Now, however, it's the key component to an extra-dimensional conquerer's spell to circumvent his exile from our world (courtesy Dr. Strange). Accidental danger for Wanda again causes an over-heated Vision (well, it WAS the body of the original Human Torch, so...) to believe the worst of Silver Surfer (who he battles for a piece of the eye inside a volcano in Polynesia) and the Defenders, mistaken already for Black Knight's kidnappers.

Both teams strut their stuff in some very interesting match-ups: Dr. Strange versus the Black Panther and Mantis, a duel of heightened senses, is very good, and Hawkeye gets one back on Iron Man that makes you cheer despite yourself. Besides, the Defenders have been informed assembling the Eye is the way to retrieve Black Knight, who's actually been turned into a smashed stone statue! You know Captain America versus his old WW II ally Namor was a great writer's choice, and the turning point in the quarrel. The funny part is, everyone makes nice before they remember none other than the Incredible Hulk and the Mighty Thor are locked in a stand still grip in downtown Los Angeles! Madre de Dios!

Though in fact that the Avengers knew suspicion of the Defenders had come through the warning of Loki...presently, poor blinded Loki, who Thor knows to be God of Lies!!...anyway, the teams have a social. Then, the Marvel world as we know it goes to war with Dormammu's invasion: panels for everyone from Spider-Man to Dracula depict the spreading demon-transformation plague, as the end of the world visits New York City and many places besides. Dormy's stolen the re-assembled Eye, and with it, he is easily a match and more, in raw power, for both teams, even the Hulk, Namor, Thor, Iron Man, and more, all present. In fact, Thor and Iron Man are transformed into their helpless mortal identities of Dr. Don Blake and Tony Stark, industrialist, as the opening shot.

I don't want to spoil Avengers #117 for you, and I don't know that I could, but you'll never guess who saves the day against the would-be lord of two worlds?

I can tell you this: it's not the Vision. When the team's given the perception of quicksand all around them, Vision attempts to ignore the illusion and alter his mass and slip through. But---he freezes! At this critical juncture! No reason known! It will not, alas, be the last time, and he has much to ponder, and something, now, beyond his control, that may bring down his super hero career.

Mantis is as Mantis does

Mantis would become Wanda's rival without giving it a self-conscious thought. One can't help but wonder if there was not a more copacetic solution, but sheltered Wanda's fairy tale romance, because of the all-or-nothing nature of the expected monogamy, is in for a real test, and everyone in the quadrangle (along with the forgotten Swordsman) will have to come to grips with home truths.

I am glad we are on the subject of these two women and their crossing affections for this man who is, well, not really a man as we typically define them, right? It's raising much more interesting questions than how space races and their invasions and kidnappings fit in, when you're a bit longer in the tooth. That said, the next invasion's coming already...and the origin of the enmity between those aforementioned space races, the Kree (blue-skinned folk) and Skrulls (reptile-chin green shape changers) is going to shape up into a very unique history that is so beautifully 1970's, I will relate that, too.

After all---it's all going to flow right along with the rest of the origin of Mantis and Vision, with the rebirth of the Scarlet Witch and the Swordsman, told in between, advancing the story arc for each one of them.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Steve Ditko and P.Craig Russell: "This World Alive!"

As I prepare my Comic Con post, enjoy this piece from 2010's Integr8d Fictions, of which you can find more at

“Am I mad to think that I may communicate with a living planet? That I may reason with a world enraged?”
(Right there’s a clause that could be a nice Stan Lee-approved title, though “This World Alive!” chosen by Mantlo suits Rom, Spaceknight #69 (Aug 85).

From the cybernetic memory banks of Rom, spaceknight:

The battles of other worlds, their mysteries, have haunted my way. I, the poet, have born the scars of conflict stretched over two hundred years; even the banishment once and for all of Wraithkind has yielded no surcease since departing Earth.

Now have I begun searching for the signals of my own kind, the blossom of Galador’s youth wrapped like myself in unfeeling spaceknight armor. Indeed, the two lifeforms I sense faintly here are my first hope of finding fellow Galadorians since Starshine fell to Wraith treachery upon my first return to Earth.

That return filled me with great woe, for though I would again see the woman I had come to love, I now had the knowledge that mad Terminus had stolen my humanity for himself, only to fall to annihilation when Galactus threatened Galador. How I long for her golden spires! If there are any who may join with me, I must seek them out, that we may see our paradise together.

Landing from outer space, my Analyzer picks out two signatures analogous to Galadorian Spaceknights, So engrossed, I gradually realize: we face a world mind, upon an entire single biomass!

Memories are often attached to smells and flavors such as no spaceknight may partake in armor. Upon this world I could not smell the burning of follicles, which to me were constricting tentacles, but like skin, the surface contained pores. I become then an accidental invader, a foreign body---and soon, the target of antibodies, agents of a system that engulfed this world alive.

Strong emotions attach to incidence, and even through two hundred years of search and battle do I recall jubilation greatest—such as my discovery of fellow spaceknights---and most mind numbing horror---such as these remnants of my foes made pathetic in their powerless state.

My sickening discovery sends cyborg senses reeling: the terror of Wraiths embodied within slowly dissolving acids throughout the chamber I face! Strange! These arch enemies, deprived of their homeworld’s magic, share my circumstance of victimhood in the planet’s whims. I grant them release with his Neutralizer. Again, the world rages; I must abandon this “stomach” and its raw function to feed to find the brain of the living planet. Its awareness emanates...”from the worldmind of the entity called Ego!”

I answer formal inquiry, I am Rom of Galador, called by some the greatest among her spaceknights--- only to feel the focused “biomolecular assault” of merciless Ego.

This impresses Ego, who points out the suspended, similar life forms: Seeker and Scanner of the Space Knight Squadron! The cyborgs have become Ego’s studies; vehemently, I object that they are war-heroes who deserve to go home. *

Captured Seeker and Scanner beg me flee to safety; never!
Unconditionally I declare for their release. Ego scoffs. “Mine is the wrath of a world driven to madness by suffering beyond your comprehension!” Already was the planet dying from its battle with Galactus (in Thor #228); he was sent soaring out of control from Earth by the Fantastic Four (viewtopic) towards the raging forces of the sun! This star, however, instead triggered his photosynthetic rejuvenation, and so did Ego pull together his mass. Gaining control of the sidereal propulsion unit affixed by Galactus, Ego launches for another corner of the galaxy, to rest and to feed.
Ego feeds, not on other planets, “but I could quite easily feast upon those inhabitants of other worlds witless enough to land upon me!” He allows the Dire

Wraith infestation, watching them build defenses and awaiting a second army. He cursed his luck; only two such enemies arrived, yet they made a brave stand ---until Ego absorbed spaceknights and wraiths!

I promise this Neutralizer “can scar you within as the sun has scarred you without!” I empathize over the pain I inflict; “I must preserve the lives of my comrades.”

Fear shows upon the face of the Living Planet, and as soon as the whine dies, Seeker and Scanner fall released beside me, grateful, in need of support. Scanner remarks my inherent genetic superiority allowed to wield the power of the greatest of spaceknights, but all their hearts to me are great, their intentions as pure as mine.

Now we are interrupted with expulsion back through a pore to the surface.
Unsteadily, we brace for escape and further battle, but with his sidereal rocket, Ego retreats. Rather than pursue the superior powered being, Seeker mentions the Wraiths, but I can now break the terrific news that they’ve nothing left to do but go HOME!!!
---ROM, retrieved from cybernetic circuitry and documented by Publius Enigma of Galador.

*Honored warriors kept from their homeland by the command of an ego...whose ego? Fascinating.

It’s P. Craig Russell, inking Steve Ditko, featuring a menace created by Stan and Jack!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

One from our sister blog Integr8d Fictions

Integr8d Fictions is at !!! See the February 2011 column for more posts on Steve Gerber!

Defenders (1972 series) #20

"The Woman She Was...!" is written by Steve Gerber and drawn by Sal Buscema and Vince Colletta. Cover by Gil Kane. Guest-starring the Thing. Continued from Marvel Two-in-One #7.

The Enchantress created the Valkyrie by trapping the spirit of one of Odin's shield-maidens in the body of an Earth woman named Barbara Denton Norris from a small New England town. Despite her Norman Rockwell upbringing, Barbara had fled the little hamlet for a drug-fueled life in New York City, leaving behind her confused husband Jack. But now that the woman called Barbara is gone, wiped out by the Enchantress' spell, the Valkyrie finds herself picking up the scattered pieces of her tragic life.

The mundane thing that brings the Valkyrie back to Cobbler's Roost is a harmonica with the enigmatic name "Celestia" written on it. The musical instrument ended up in the hands of Alvin Denton, Barbara's widower father, who believed playing the harmonica would restore his daughter's fractured mind. Instead, it destroyed the world and only the quick actions of the Thing, Valkyrie and Doctor Strange were able to reverse the effect. But the trauma killed Alvin and Val feels its her job to return his body to Cobbler's Roost. But once there, she falls into a plot launched by a cult that worships the Nameless Ones; a sacrifice offered up by none other than Barbara's dead mother and accentuated by that very same harmonica!

In #20: Gerber takes over, concluding Englehart's story guest-starring the Thing, in which the team thwarts the Nameless Ones (see THE INCREDIBLE HULK #126 for details) and the Valkyrie begins her discovery of her life as Barbara Norriss. In #21, she continues her search for her body's husband, Jack. Val, if you didn't know, is a Valkyrior spirit fused to the body of insane Barbara Norriss by the Enchantress, as seen in DEFENDERS #3; her mind dominates the pairing.

#21: Val looks at her scrap books from her Barbara life, and she and Steven go looking for Jack. Hulk wrecks a home after playtime with the kids is rudely interrupted, which makes the little girl cry and then makes Hulk cry. Kyle sees hippie model Trish Starr (which I read long after creating my own hippie model, Celestia Englehart, who you'll meet in Not Another Comic Book #1) and Chondu, Morgan, and Nagan, the Headmen
( create their maddening Black Rain (not to be confused with Chocolate Rain, which is also maddening) and commit robberies while the Defenders go nuts. Kyle saves Trish from committing suicide but no dice on catching any Headmen.

Myebook - D'n'A  Comics #1 - click here to open my ebook DNA Comics #1 is ONLINE!!!

With this summary, we begin a storytelling journey, tying up some loose ends that throw Valkyrie in particular into relief, a fantastical character suddenly accounting for a real life! As we go along, the structure and approach of Gerber's work, and the questions he raises, will become more and more the body of what I want to tell you. Steve Gerber, for me, stands well beside Luigi Pirandello, with even a touch of Cervantes himself, and many other challenging yet entertaining literary lights who could write of sadness and confusion, and yes, heroism, with a knowing eye towards character and dialogue that presents individual and sometimes eccentric voices.

Listen, I'm still figuring out, but meanwhile, you can do what Jason did. (He also got a special bonus copy!) In Jason's case, he sent us $9 at

C. Lue Disharoon
542 6th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101

which was really cool as it covers shipping and handling, at $1.25 each! The issue itself, DNA #1, retails for $3.25, but save a quarter and get this clearly-drawn story with warm characters and Southern Gothic occultism today for $2.99, $1.25 shipping and handling in the U.S.

You can send $30 and get any three t-shirts and the comic, too---or $25 for the two styles of shirts and a comic.

NOT ANOTHER COMIC BOOK IS COMING IN 2012!!!! Like the INTEGR8D SOUL page on FB for more!!! And this blog and more new material are coming out as a book in spring of 2012, INTEGR8D FICTIONS.

Meanwhile, our t-shirts, featuring our first two painted covers by Gary Shipman, are available at Convention Special Price, for $12 each or 3 for $30, plus $3.00 for shipping & handling.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tears in Mayberry : a requiem for Andy Griffith

Mayberry, North Carolina was surely one of the most cheerful places to grace the silver screen. If you ever dreamed of---or miss---life in small towns before cell phones, wi-fi, prescription pills and meth, I have to tell you that what made the Andy Griffith show resonate so, in its family-friendly stories, is that hint of truth about it. Oh, not a place to confuse with Heaven, and filled with its own quiet desperation, day dreams and foul-ups, to be sure. But you just know you didn't have to lock your door, and if anything out of the ordinary happened in the night, you'd know Sheriff Taylor would come around and do his best to make heads or tails of it. Now, I grew up in a time and place that was the twilight of that timeless place, and the smell of cut grass and summer days hot as a fire cracker. It was a jarring transition, but as a boy I remember what it's like to have neighbors bring over extra bushels of vegetables from the garden when they'd grown more bounty than they could eat, and watched Mama make home-cooked meals for sick people (to be Southern is to love people with food). If Shannon, Georgia, U.S.A. was more complicated, following the pathos of Viet Nam and the counter-culture and the onrush of the modern world, it at least smelled and sounded like Mayberry, and had plenty of modest, decent people to go around---just as gracious to your face and maybe a bit too hard on one another in gossip. It was a place where sanitized, corn-pone humor still had a place in a genteel exchange, and while we may not have had the comic timing of the Andy Griffith Show ensemble, the kinds of laughs you could have with anyone were not so different. You just might illustrate a point by comparing something to "that time on Andy Griffith."
You could never count on television to instill the values you need to see by example, but I cherished the fair-mindedness and patience of Sheriff Taylor. That ubiquitious program had a way of placing the presence of loved ones passed on and times gone by in the living rooms of baby boomers and their children. However hokey the contrivances, there was real heart to The Andy Griffith Show, with its sympathetic single father and curious young son, with its goofy array of unbelievably benign comic characters. However dark the world may have been in its silence and ignorance, this little television program distilled, in a charmingly secular fashion, the paragon of Southern hospitality and virtues, for while its simple people may not have always been wise, they were apt to see the error of their ways. Right along with them was the good-hearted, compassionate Sheriff, with his own share of mistakes, and his continuous tolerance for his hapless best friend, Deputy Fife. It's funny how there's something in this passing that brings out in each of us our own little old person, our own inner country person, to say things like "they don't make 'em like that anymore"---something in our reverence for a simplicity with ease and grace.
In my exuberance for flashier heroes, I may have forgotten the influence of Andy Griffith's character, in the type of reliability, generosity, fair-mindedness, and open-hearted patience with which he was written and portrayed. I can tell you I've seen every episode of that program about a dozen times, and somehow end up watching it again each time Mama comes to California to visit. It's not so much the simplicity of those times---and when was anything so simple as that which could be resolved in 22 minutes of Golden Age of Television programming? It's about being straight-forward...about listening to people...avoiding ridiculing them for their problems, while you, with them, try by grace to see the light. I enjoyed Andy in "Matlock," too---one of the shining lights of older, lead actors on television. It was one of those last television programs I watched with the whole family, just as I realized maybe I watched TOO much t.v. and needed to live a little more life! Even a person as young as I was may have caught the Mount Airy, North Carolina native in "Rustler's Rhapsody," the drama "A Face in the Crowd" (from 1957) and "No Time For Sargeants." He was a lifelong Democrat and a Grammy-winning Gospel singer. He died this morning at 7 a.m. in his home in North Carolina. I got a bit choked up recently when I decided to cover a song called "Country Comfort," missing my own grandmothers and the way of life that still whispered to me of its days in my boyhood. There is something very valuable there, related to getting back to the land and not living so extravagantly, playing with toys made straight from nature, and the kind of virtues related to working with your hands beside the seasons, which I wish to distill and pass along. I could recite more Andy Griffith show plots for you than I really should, with names like Thelma Lou and Otis and Goober and Gomer and the Darling Family, but maybe we can reminisce over such things, as we used to say, on down the road. But for all the kind characters I enjoyed in those reruns that brought my whole family together around supper time, there was no greater giant than Sheriff Taylor, the gentlest patriarch and friend to all. I celebrate the work of this fine actor, and join you in a wistful tear, for while never will we see his like again, there's something in Mayberry that deserves to live forever. So, "in the sweet bye-and-bye," then, Mr. Griffith.